Out in the ‘Verse

Selling your book in person – Part One

Let’s start a conversation about selling your book. I don’t mean
online or in a bookstore. What I want to talk about is the in-person,
at-a-conference, in-a-dealers room, or however you make off-line sales. If you
don’t do live sales like that, or don’t feel like you need to, good for you.
Some of us feel the need to get out there and hustle for every book we can.
There may come a day when I get over that, but for now I not only like to get
out for the sales, I like going to cons, festivals and workshops to meet authors,
publishers and readers that I might not ordinarily get to see face to face.
This isn’t about your sales avenues or reasons for doing
your sales the way you do, it’s about your game, your talk, your banter, your
pitch. This about getting a potential reader to stop at your table and buy your
book based on more than just the cover. Let’s assume you’re at a genre
conference (scifi, horror, fantasy), you’ve got a table, you’ve got a stack of
books, and you’re all set up to take customers. This can work for non-genre
books as well, but my books are scifi, so I’m using that example.

Let’s make this rule
#1. Your book CANNOT be everything to everyone.

It just can’t. Your book may be amazing, but it most likely
won’t appeal to everyone that walks by your table. Think about that. You have a
modern vampire tale set in Colorado
at the turn of the century. Unless you are at the Turn of the Century Vampire
Books conference in Denver, not
everyone is going to dig what you’re laying down. Even at a general horro
conference, there will be zombie fans, werewolf fans, psychological horror
fans, kaiju fans, and fans of any of a number of other subgenres. You’ll have
to actually talk up your books if you want sales there.
I was at a conference recently and a man was literally
selling his series this way: “Everyone
loves my books.” Sure. If you’re joking, you can try to draw people in that
way, but, if you’re serious? This guy had a whole series of YA books, and you
mean to tell me that he didn’t have ONE bad review? Come on. According to his
pitch, his YA books were perfect for young adults, adults, teens, schools,
families, libraries, kids to read together and I think they could also be read
to the elderly, the infirm, and to family pets.
I didn’t read his books, so I guess I can’t knock him, but I
don’t see how it’s possible for everyone from every walk of life to treasure
his series.

So that brings me to
what I would call rule #2. Don’t lie.

Selling your book under false pretenses is just dumb. I
know, I know. The buyer will be long gone by the end of the day, and you’ll
have cash in your pocket for the ride home. Maybe that’s the way it worked at
one point, but now there’s that little thing called the internet. You may be
making a face-to-face sale today, but that reader most likely has access to the
web. If you find a zombie fan, promise them your book has tons of zombie
action, and your ghost story doesn’t deliver? They can easily let the world
know your less-than-honest sales tactics. You’re looking to build a reader
base. You want them coming back for the next book in the series, the next new series,
or whatever. Pissing them off won’t accomplish that.

Which is a good time
to talk about rule #3. Practice your pitch.

You get someone who is drawn over to your table by your excellent
book cover, your smile, the free candy, those cool bookmarks, the giant poster,
your awesome t-shirt or whatever… You can’t rely on your back cover synopsis to
seal the sale. YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY TALK TO THEM. Yeah. I know. What kind of
profession is this?See, even while they’re reading your back cover or your book
marks, they will generally ask you, the author, what your book is about. You
need to be ready to explain it in a concise manner. Call it your elevator
pitch, your logline, your Cliffs Notes version, whatever. If you can’t explain
it, and sound confident about it, they’ll assume the book is just as much of a
mess as your explanation. Practice a thirty second description of the plot. It’s
not easy, but it’ll help your sales. 

Stay tuned for part two!